What’s the Story?
Daniel Craig wakes up in the old west. He’s lost his memory and found a metal bracelet on his wrist. Turns out the metal bracelet is some kind of alien gun. Also he’s a wanted man.
Anyway, aliens attack the town he’s in and kidnap most of the population. Then all the cliché-type characters (the amnesiac, the mysterious woman, the hard-nosed cattle rancher, the preacher, the kid, the… dog) who are left over must band together to go and rescue them.
What’s the Problem?
The amnesia in this story doesn’t serve a huge point. It makes Craig a bit mysterious, but it doesn’t really impact the story. This is partly a quest for him to get his memory back, but to far less a degree than it is in say the Bourne films. It’s more of a sideline that takes up much of the first act of the piece.
For aliens, they’re a bit low-tech. The tractor-beams that they use to kidnap people are claws on a chair, similar to the prize-grabs you see at video arcades (do you kids still have video arcades?).
There’s no real problem with being a low-tech scout group rather than a full-on invasion force, but… if they’re going to fight aliens in the Old West, I want them to fight the proper aliens, with ray guns and laser beams and hovering spaceships.
These aliens are quite bug-like (think District 9 and then change them by… uh… actually, just think District 9), not Small Greys
which, again, isn’t a real problem if that’s what you’re expecting, but I would have thought the fun and the idea of this film is to take two things that don’t oft go together – sci fi and westerns – and blend them. If they’re going all cliché with the western side (they are: each character is a stereotype and never really exceeds the bounds of such), why not go all cliché with the sci fi?
They’re fine. There’s no problem with quality. But there’s a lot of dust every time the aliens attack, which isn’t usual for sci-fi, and the aliens don’t have the technology you expect, which means the special effects aren’t all whizz-bang. The main alien doesn’t have a gun, for instance, so there’s some creeping-around special effects, but no shooting/blasting special effects.
Pretty much no one does. They have six-shooters (which, by the way, don’t seem to pierce the hide of the aliens, so I don’t know why they bother), but they’re never shown putting more bullets in them. Presumably this happens off-camera, but it’s all a bit convenient for my tastes.
Not as Surprising as It Thinks It Is
Olivia Wilde, we saw your twist coming.
It Just Doesn’t… Pop
I know I sound vague here. This film is good: it’s well-made, the strong-but-silent main protagonist doesn’t suddenly get all chatty when it’s convenient (that is, the characters are consistent), the special effects work, the characters function adequately, and nothing breaks the whole feel of the thing.
But it’s a middling idea. There’s nothing more interesting than “Let’s put aliens and cowboys in the same film”. It’s a mediocre idea well done, which is better than seeing a brilliant idea squandered but it’s still… eh.
What’s the Solution?
Get rid of the amnesia, or make it more central.
Either go full-cliché with both the cowboys and the aliens, or create individual and awesome characters and aliens.
If Olivia Wilde wants to get naked, get her properly naked. Don’t get our hopes up with the shots in the trailer and then not deliver.
It’s fun. Don’t expect “traditional” aliens. If you let the aliens be whatever they want to be it’s okay. And I like the idea of supporting director Jon Favreau now that he’s left Iron Man behind. He’s good at these big-budget special effect films and I think if the Iron Men are the only films he makes that turn a profit then he won’t get to make other good and fun films like this one.
It’s a laugh. It’s good fun. There’s cowboys. Olivia Wilde gets naked (in a you-don’t-see-anything-way, but still…). And there’s aliens.